Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kanye West and the Race Problem

The other day I saw a news story about something called Bound 3, a spoof on Kanye West's Bound 2 music video.  Bound 3 features James Franco and Seth Rogen acting out the parts of Kanye and his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian.  The video had me in stitches.  What cracked me up most, what was seriously hilarious, were the lyrics coming out of Franco's mouth.

He talks about how he is tired and the girl in the song must be tired as well because apparently they've been hurt in love, etc.  At one point Franco sings: "I'm tired, you're tired...Jesus wept."  And then puts his arms out to the sides as if he is on a cross.  I laughed so hard that I almost peed my pants.

I decided to check out West's original video to see which parts Franco and Rogen had grossly exaggerated. To my complete and utter shock, the answer was: none.  Every body movement was the same and the lyrics were the same.  I started Googling  "lyrics Bound 2" because I was sure that something must be wrong with my computer.  Maybe Kanye's video was up but Franco's singing was in the background?

No, those were the real lyrics.  At one point, West actually says, "I want to f--- you on the sink and then give you something to drink."  Also, for no apparent reason other than maybe needing a rhyme, he says, while rubbing his head "Got a fresh cut straight out the salon b----." If you don't believe me, Google the lyrics for yourself.  Also....Here's a side-by-side version of the two videos.

I honestly, sincerely could not believe how Kanye West could take himself seriously.  Then, I theorized that maybe reporters act captivated when he talks and so he believes that he is some sort of genius, a prophet, Shakespeare no less.  In case you don't want to follow those links, all of these are things he's said about himself.  Then, I thought that maybe he is surrounded by assistants and handlers who are impressed with his money and good looks and he reads that as them being in awe of his "theories."

That's the conclusion I came to.  Ultimately, I didn't care, I had some really good laughs that night.  He won't be the first or the last person to be polluted by celebrity.  I didn't think anymore about it, until I read "In Defense of Kanye West," an article by Rawiya Kameir.

I think one of the people who commented put it best when they said that calling every criticism of a black male "racist" dilutes the term.  I am a black woman who makes a living writing and speaking about issues of race, class, and privilege.  This is my wheelhouse and Kameir, you got it wrong.  Your heart is in the right place, but with this article you are hurting the movement, hindering progress, giving people an excuse to keep the phrase "playing the race card" in our vernacular.

Being racially sensitive is not about giving blacks a pass to act idiotically.  The bar of logic, sanity, art, genius, or anything else doesn't get lowered for us because our ancestors were slaves.  Being able to take criticism and respond to it point-by-point is what it means to be grown up.  It's what it means to be in the arena, to be a businessman, to be equal.  That's what we wanted, right, equality?

It's okay if some people think West is a genius.  They can love his music.  They can even believe that he is a radical, a visionary.  Historically, when someone has gone way outside of the box there have always been those, and will always be those, who laugh at them, ridicule them, call them crazy.  So, if you believe that Kanye West is some sort of musical messiah, go for it, but don't call me a racist for thinking he is nothing more than comic relief.

Kameir, if you need a Kanye-related soap box to stand on, why don't you theorize about the reasons why Bound 2 uses the phrase "b----" four times.  As a woman, that is something I do have a problem with.


  1. Well stated! Love reading your writing. Makes me laugh AND think.

  2. Because of your awesome documentary I checked out this site. Your blog entry lead me to the Kanye madness. Thank you so much for sharing your life (and thoughts) with us.

  3. Saw the documentary today on Netflix. I was captivated. Your grandfather was a brave man. I grew up around racism in my youth. Living life and being in the military my eyes were opened thank God. Movies such as these should be seen by so many who need to see the evil and the pain that these men and women and children were subject to. God bless you.

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  5. I love your blog, your posts, and the beautiful story of your grandfather.

    I am figuratively waving a white flag now okay?

    I'm not a fan of Kanye West's music or his rants. Neither are most of my friends. For the past few years though I find it interesting that he has become a litmus test for a form of distinction. He may be one of the safest ways to connect the 'good' people and the cool kids. He makes it so easy. Even the president chimed in. I may share the sentiment privately but I stop short of calling him out for his, using your words, idiotic behavior. Am I like Kameir giving him a pass? Not hardly. But in the hierarchy of things I choose to take notice or take exception to, he isn't high on the list. Especially not publicly. There's just so much of it. Doing so reminds me of a bit I heard while sneaking a listen to Richard Pryor talking about Leon Spinks*. Richard spoke of disliking people who asked him if he thinks Leon is dumb (he goes on to say, what will he think of me if agree with him?). The unease with the question and not the obvious answer is what makes me think. The point? I guess there isn't a big one. And there definitely isn't a point of contention. I’m sure the parody is hilarious.

    I'm with you in regard to Kameir's misplaced racist allegations. The way you pointed it out is great. He is on his own. That said, calling out Kanye at this point feels overdone, a little too self serving, and piling on.

    Still waving that flag.

    *Boxer from the 70's known for his legal mishaps and for once beating Muhammad Ali (among other things).

    1. No white flags needed :) You can have an opinion that's different than mine. I can handle it..usually. :)

      I have to say I agree, making fun of Kanye is like skinny jeans or True's trendy. I was really trying to make a point about Kameir, BUT I did spend most of the post on the video because, was HILARIOUS. I simply could not believe what I was seeing when I watched Kanye's video....and the way he acts as though he's a modern day messiah seriously cracks me up. I guess I let the moment get the best of me. Thank you for connecting!

  6. kanye used to be great. his first two albums will always be dear to my heart.

    he's a phenomenal beat-maker, and at the time it was so refreshing to see a rapper make it with songs about things like having a fragile ego, being unlucky in love, not being able to afford gas, and being embarrassed at times of the decisions we make to impress others.

    then, as you so aptly put, he was corrupted by celebrity. he stopped making his own beats and started writing songs about how great he was. he utterly lost what it was that i, at least, loved about him, and became a joke.
    hip-hop needs more artists like old kanye. its sad.